Season Summary: 1923
Collingwood rover, Charlie Laxton, was appointed Williamstown captain-coach in 1923 after playing 148 games and kicking 89 goals with the Magpies from 1912-21. Laxton played in Collingwood's premiership teams of 1917 and 1919 and the runner-up sides of 1915 and 1918, and represented Victoria in 1919 and 1920.
J.J. (John James) Liston, a Williamstown councillor since 1898, mayor seven times and licensee of the Customs House Hotel in Nelson Place, began his eight-year reign as president in 1923 after earlier being a vice-president, treasurer, a committeeman and one of the Club's VFA delegates. 1921 premiership captain-coach, Jim Caldwell, decided to give playing away at 36 years of age after 81 games with Williamstown and accepted a non-playing coaching position in WA with Perth in 1923. Recruits included new captain-coach Charlie Laxton from Collingwood (who resigned as captain after round 3 but continued on as non-playing coach excepting the round 12 game at Footscray when he returned for just one further game), Johnny 'Jack' Martin from Footscray (father of the star of the 1950's of the same name), former player Tom O'Halloran (who took over the captaincy from Laxton) returned after four years and 62 games with South Melbourne and a year as captain-coach of Prahran, Len Gibb from Hawthorn, Eric Humphrey from Carlton, Jack Cahill from Brunswick, T.H. Hendricks from Brighton, Charlie Gibbs from Kew, Phil Lee of Werribee, 'Digger' Thompson from Footscray VFA, Les Stone returned from Northcote after having played with Williamstown in 1919 and Bob King returned from Williamstown Juniors along with teammate George Calleson. 1922 Collingwood captain, Tom Drummond, was appointed captain-coach of Williamstown in March 1923 but, owing to a delay in the granting of a permit, Laxton was given the role.
The Herald, September 16 1921 - Collingwood's captain of 1922, Tom Drummond, was appointed captain-coach of Williamstown in March 1923 but, owing to a delay in the granting of a permit, Magpie teammate Charlie Laxton was given the role.
The new committee's first hurdle to overcome was the threat by the VFA to review Williamstown's place in the competition if the oval and its infrastructure were not considerably improved. The surface was uneven and devoid of grass in several areas and there was very little shelter for spectators and few elevated areas for viewing of games. The outside fence was hidden by an unkempt boxthorn hedge on which the Club either lost or had punctured eight balls during the match against Hawthorn the season before. The accommodation in the pavilion, which was constructed in 1888, for players and spectators had not been updated and was in a bad state. At this stage the ground was still managed by the Williamstown Cricket Club and this development was the catalyst for the local Council to take control of the ground.
VFA Recorder for the round 4 clash at Kardinia Park between Williamstown and Geelong Association, won by the Villagers by 40 points, 16.14.110 to 10.10.70. Fred Carpenter kicked 5 goals and Alan Geddes was best player.
The VFA ladder and goalkickers after round 3 of the 1923 season.
The season commenced with a 6-goal win at Williamstown over the lowly Prahran before consecutive losses at Port Melbourne and at Williamstown at the hands of Footscray, teams that would eventually play off in the grand final. 8,000 spectators attended the game against the 'Scrays. A 40-point win at Kardinia Park over Geelong Association (Fred Carpenter 5 goals), a 14-point victory at Brighton (Carpenter 7 goals) and a 44-point triumph over Brunswick had the Villagers back in fourth position on the ladder by round 6. Brunswick had defeated eventual premier Footscray the week before. Losses then followed wins up until round 12, including the second defeats for the season to Port Melbourne and Footscray by 10 points and 64 points, respectively. The Argus reported that, prior to the next game against Geelong Association, 'a players meeting on Thursday night was largely attended, and the position was fully discussed, with the result that a lot of differences were straightened out and some greivances ventilated.' There was a remarkable reversal of form that saw 'Town then string together six consecutive victories to finish off the home-and-away rounds, including the season's biggest win of 60 points over Geelong Association at Williamstown (Carpenter 9 goals) and a 33-point victory over eventual finalist, Hawthorn, at Williamstown in round 16. In the final game of the home-and-away rounds at Pt Gellibrand, which the Villagers won by just 3 points, North Melbourne played more than one quarter with only 17 men after one of their players was 'unavoidably detained, and did not make his appearance until the second quarter.'
John 'Jack' Martin joined Williamstown from Footscray in 1923 after playing in the Tricolours' 1919 and 1920 premiership sides and the 1921 team that was runner-up to Williamstown. He then went to Kingsville as captain-coach after round 1 of the 1924 season but ended the season as coach of Williamstown CYMS. After coaching CY's again in 1925 he returned to Williamstown as captain-coach in 1926. He played with 'Town in 1927 before returning to CY's as non-playing coach in 1928. He also coached CY's in 1947 after the war. Martin had earlier played in Williamstown Juniors' first VJFA premiership team in 1916 and the 1918 grand final before crossing to Footscray - enhancement and colourisation kindly provided by Adrian Newington, grand-nephew of Tom Newington (head trainer 1933-46) and John Martin snr. (captain-coach 1926 and player 1923 and 1927) and first cousin, once removed, of 1956 Liston Medallist, John Martin jnr.
The team did better than the year before, winning 12 times and losing six to finish in third place, before losing the second semi-final to Footscray at North Melbourne, 12.7.79 to 6.11.47, before a crowd of 20,000. The Tricolours got off to a good start, and led 6.3 to 2.1 at quarter time. Williamstown played better in the second term, and a goal to Fred Carpenter right on half-time had the Villagers trailing by 26 points, 9.3 to 5.1. Rain fell during the third quarter which reduced the game to a slog but Williamstown were able to reduce the margin slightly to 24 points by the last change, 10.5 to 6.5. Footscray added two goals in the final quarter to one by Williamstown to run out victors by 32 points. Carpenter and Phil Lee both kicked two goals for 'Town. This was the Tricolours' fifth consecutive win over Williamstown.
The Argus, September 15 1923 - starting line-ups for the second semi-final against Footscray at North Melbourne, which was won by the Tricolours 12.7.79 to Williamstown's 6.11.47 before a crowd of 20,000.
Fred Carpenter kicked 63 goals from full-forward during the season and was second on the VFA list behind Port's George Taylor with 65. Carpenter's best return was nine goals against Geelong Association in round 13 at Williamstown. The next best on the goalkicking list was first-year player, Phil Lee, with 26. The team scored a total of 174 goals and 191 behinds (1235 points) to their opponents' 144 goals and 180 behinds (1044 points). Les Stone and Laurie Smith were both selected to represent the VFA against the WA Goldfields Association in a 3 game series at Kalgoorlie in July. The Recorder Cup was introduced during this season, which was awarded to the VFA's best and fairest player based on the field umpires votes, and became the official award for many years. The Cup was donated by the proprietors of the Association's weekly match publication 'The Recorder'. Footscray's captain, Con McCarthy, was the first recipient. Membership of the Club increased again in this season to reach 1996, comprised of 1798 adults and 198 youths. In April of this year, The Argus reported that 'members of the Williamstown cricket and football clubs were astonished to learn .... that an oil prospecting syndicate was seeking from the Secretary of Mines permission to explore the cricket ground'.
Sporting Globe, September 1, 1923.
Hawthorn made the finals for the first time in this season, a feat that would not be repeated until 1957 when the Hawks were in the VFL. Late in the season the Mayor and President of the Club, J.J. Liston, unveiled an honour board in the pavilion containing the names of all the local players who had gone overseas with the armed forces during the First World War. Former player, George 'Coon' Bennett, whose name appeared on the board, passed away on March 18, aged 37, as a result of an accident on the wharves at Port Melbourne where he worked, three days previously.
JJ Liston assumed the presidency in 1923 and would serve in that role until 1930. He then became VFA president until his death in 1944 at the age of 71.
Late in the 1923 season the Mayor and President of the Club, J.J. Liston, unveiled an honour board in the pavilion containing the names of all the local players who had gone overseas with the armed forces during the First World War.
Former player, George 'Coon' Bennett, pictured here on a 1909 Sniders & Abrahams trading card when with Essendon Association, came to Williamstown in 1910 and played 13 games, kicking one goal. Bennett, whose name appears on the honour board mentioned above, passed away on March 18, 1923, aged 37 as a result of an accident on the wharves at Port Melbourne where he worked, three days previously.
Williamstown Chronicle, March 24, 1923
VFA Recorder for the round 14 game at Williamstown v. Brighton which 'Town won by 37 points, 12.13.85 to 7.6.48, with Fred Carpenter kicking 5 goals. This was Williamstown's sixteenth consecutive victory over Brighton, going back to round 9 of the 1913 season.
Jack Cahill transferred to Williamstown from Brunswick in 1923 and played 10 games without kicking a goal before crossing to Carlton Districts in 1924. From there he was recruited by Carlton and Cahill made four senior appearances and kicked three goals for the Blues in 1925.
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